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We made it! It’s been a very long journey, but we made it! Ray and I have now been to every place that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. It took us seventeen years. Our family loves the books. Ray read them as a little boy. I started reading them to John, Bethany, and Mary Evelyn in the early 1990s. We learned so much about life from those books. I learned so much about being a mother and longed to be as good a ma as Ma herself.

I had no idea that people could visit Laura’s homesites until my friend Teresa and her family moved to Tennessee from Idaho. She mentioned to me that she had wanted to stop in South Dakota to see where Laura Ingalls Wilder once lived. When we went on a family vacation to Mount Rushmore in 1996, I remembered that conversation, so we planned to include DeSmet, South Dakota, in our itinerary. This is the site of By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie, These Happy Golden Years, and The First Four Years. It’s great. You can visit a replica of Brewster school, the site of their homestead (outside of town), and the home Pa built for Ma in town after they moved away from the homestead (it is not mentioned in the books). You can also drive by the school that Laura and her younger sisters attended; it is now a home. While we were there, we learned that we could also visit Walnut Grove, Minnesota. It was on our way home from DeSmet, so we stopped in town and also went to the site of the Ingalls’ dugout On the Banks of Plum Creek.

The next time we got close to a site from one of Laura’s books was in 2002 when our family went on Mary Evelyn’s senior trip. That was over a year after she graduated, but that’s a long story. I will tell you one part of it though. We had just started Notgrass Company in 1999 and money was very tight. One night a bad hailstorm hit. We usually drive a car that is several years old and aren’t too concerned about hailstorms. However, when we found out that other people were getting insurance settlements from hail damage, we asked for an adjuster to look at ours. Our car did qualify for an insurance settlement, but the adjuster suggested that we put the money in the bank instead of getting the tiny nicks on our van roof fixed. We did put it in the bank until we took it out to go on Mary Evelyn’s overdue senior trip. She wanted to visit the home of Calvin Coolidge in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. We packed up our tent and headed that way. We loved Plymouth Notch and it wasn’t too far from Malone, New York, so we went to see where Laura’s future husband Almanzo, otherwise known as Farmer Boy, lived as a boy. The house is still standing and the barn has been reconstructed.

In ____ (Ray’s not in the office and I can’t remember the exact year, maybe 2005), we took a family vacation to Mansfield, Missouri, to visit the farm Laura and Almanzo purchased after traveling there by covered wagon. Here they built a beautiful home with their own hands and they reared their daughter Rose. Laura wrote all of her books in Mansfield and here she and Almanzo lived out their days. One of the most special things to see in Mansfield is Pa’s fiddle!

In 2008 Ray and I did a convention in Wichita, Kansas, and stopped by the site of Little House on the Prairie. The house is long gone, but it was nice to think about Laura having once lived there. In 2011 Ray and I went to our first homeschool convention in Minnesota. On the way home we drove right through Pepin, Wisconsin, so we got to visit the site of the Little House in the Big Woods. A little cabin has been reconstructed.

Somewhere along the way, we learned that the Ingalls family once lived in Burr Oak, Iowa, but that Laura had never written about that time. On our way between the Missouri and Minnesota conventions this year, I looked on the map and found that Burr Oak wasn’t too far out of our way. We made a quick visit. While we were there, we learned that Laura and Almanzo had lived for about a year and a half with Almanzo’s parents in nearby Spring Valley, Minnesota, before eventually settling in Missouri. Of course, we had to stop by before the conference began in Minnesota. We drove by the church they attended there. It is a museum now, but it was closed on the day we were in town.

We knew that Laura and Almanzo had lived in Florida briefly. In Burr Oak, we learned that there is an historic marker there. We wondered, “Should we try to find it when we do the convention in Florida?” When we found out last weekend that it was only two hours out of our way, we decided to go for it. We found Westville, Florida, on the map and learned that it has less than 300 people. We pulled into the town in a very rural part of the Florida panhandle late last Sunday afternoon. We didn’t find a marker, but we did spot a little gas station and market that was open. Here we drive up on a Sunday afternoon, still dressed for church. I have on a skirt and heels; Ray is dressed in a solid shirt and khaki pants. We are driving this massive van piled with boxes of homeschool curriculum. First we asked directions from a customer who was outside. He commented on the big van and suggested we check inside.

We walked in looking like the oddest folks they had seen lately. The lady behind the counter, her young teen son, and the customer all tried at the same time to tell us how to get there. She told us to drive fourteen miles out of town and to turn left. She said to turn at the blinking light. Her son called it a traffic light, but she corrected him, “It’s not a traffic light; it’s a blinking light.” I told them that this was our last Laura site to visit. The young teen commented, “That’s crazy.”

We followed the directions and found the sweetest little spot. Here Wayne Jack Ingalls had built a little park to honor his great-grandparents Peter and Mary Ingalls. In the park was the historic marker we had been looking for. It honored Peter and Mary Ingalls and Peter’s famous first cousin, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who had lived with them for ten months, along with her husband Almanzo and daughter Rose. The park has a nice gazebo, several benches, two porch swings, two birdbaths, a big table (likely used for family reunions), and the historic marker.

Florida and Laura 197

So, we made it. Little by little. Step by step. Life is like that, isn’t it? We go on little by little. We go on step by step. You have a much worthier goal that you are working toward, raising children to love God. Keep up the good work, little by little and step by step.

Let us not lose heart in doing good,
for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9, NASB



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  1. What a wonderful journey to undertake! Like you, I was especially drawn to the Laura books because of Ma. I considered her my mentor and role model in many ways, and her example still inspires me today. One question about the Westville marker–is this the Cousin Peter that appears in the Big Woods? And was Mary his wife? I almost got confused and thought it was Laura’s sister Mary, but I feel like my biography said she never married.

    • Yes, I do think Peter is Laura’s cousin from the Big Woods. I’m not sure what his wife’s name was. However, it is true that Laura’s sister Mary never married. After she came home from the school for the blind, she lived with her parents until they died. Then she went to live with Carrie in Keystone, South Dakota, which is in the Black Hills near Mount Rushmore.

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